The calm before the storm?

If you live at one end of the country, it’s a long way anywhere, so to ease the transport to the start of the Snowdonia Way, I traveled up to Birmingham with my family, who were heading north to visit relatives. Overnighting in a really nice hotel I didn’t sleep too well though as I had seen the weather forecast. Lots of potential for lots very heavy snow it said, which at first glance sounds exciting, but I was worried about the reality and whether I’d be able to complete the high-routes stages (1A+1B) over Cadr Idris.


The walk to the train station was wet and really cold, making me wonder if I had sufficient gear, but as the train headed west, the weather seemed to improve and the forecast seemed to change every fifteen minutes so things looked up.

Arriving at Machynlellth at lunchtime, I bought a sandwich, then walked south to the official start of the route, then turned around heading north. I could just about peak snow on the top of a mountain to the north.


Pausing at the River Dovey(?) for a moment I decided to head over stage 1A to see how things panned out, knowing that I could always retreat if necessary.P1030478


Rain mitts

Rain often means cold weather, and using trekking poles leads to cold wet hands or cold wet gloves. To this end, I decided to make some simple rains mitts to keep my hands warm when it’s wet.

I used the pattern and instructions here. I found the original pattern a little too large for my hands, so printed the final pattern out at 90%, before cutting the waterproof, breathable fabric from Extremetextil in Germany.IMG_8527


The fabric is great weighing in at 80 gsm, a hydrostatic head of 20,000mm and moisture  rating of permeability 15,000 g/sqm/24h.

After sewing, I used SilNett sealant to finish the seams on the outside. Although this looks a little messy, it is very effective when I tested the mitts by filling them with water and then hanging them from the washing line. Not a drip to be seen!


Overall, I;m very pleased with the final product. Quick and easy to make and very effective.


Snow Day

Last Wednesday, we had a dusting of snow in Torquay and with an amber “be prepared” weather warning for SW England for Thursday, the school I work in was closed for Thursday, as were most schools in the area.

Come Thursday morning the snow had yet to arrive, but by 10am the first flakes were falling and by 4pm a good 15-20cm had fallen.

By now we had a red weather warning in place for the SW and the village had been cut off; so there was nothing to do but head out for a walk.

Come Friday, the trampoline in the back garden had a good 50cm of snow#, which just had to be jumped into.

Bivy bag is taking shape

My DIY bivy bag is taking shape, I’ve now finished making the groundsheet and top, which is made from bug netting and a Pertex like material called Skylon. This has been sewn to the sil-nylon groundsheet with flat-felled seams.

Although my stitching is a bit wonky, I’m quite pleased with the result thus far.

My next job is to sew in WPD fabric panels for the head and foot, which should complete the bag, ready for my trip to Wales next month.

Testing sleeping bags

With the average overnight temperature in Wales in April being 3C, I decided I needed to test if my (very) old red sleeping bag is up to it. After all “Little Red” is over 20 years old.

So, last night I tried sleeping out in the back garden. Fully clothed wearing all my hiking clothes over sleeping base layers, I was on the cusp of freezing most of the night. With an overnight low of 3C, I reluctantly have come to the conclusion that for my Snowdonia Way trip I will have to take “Big Blue”, my winter rated bag which is good to about -10C, but huge and bulky to boot!

When I return, I think I will need to investigate a replacement for “Little Red” who is in need of a very well earned retirement!

Snowdonia Way here I come

With the Easter break approaching, my wife is going to the the children to visit in-laws for a while, giving me a week to head to Wales and walk the Snowdonia Way. Can’t wait to go.


Although I had planned a summer trip, when the weather would have been a fair bit warmer, beggars can’t be choosers and it’s not often that I get a week away, so I am grabbing the opportunity with both hands.

Expecting cold, rain and loads of fun!

Designing a bivy

Some time ago, I took my shelter, a Six Moon Designs Deschutes tarp, and sewed in a bug net floor and door to make it inset proof. Although this design works quite well, it has almost doubled the weight of the tarp and  it means that I have two layers of material underneath (with the groundsheet over the bug netting).

So I plan to reconfigure things, removing the bug netting and using a bivy bag to give me a bit of protection from draughts that blow under he sides of the tarp.

I also might add a bug net skirt in case I want to leave the bivy bag at home.

To this end, I have been sketch out some designs, which are an amalgam of the Katabatic Bristlecore, Enlightened Equipment Recon and zPacks Splash bivy bags.

Let’s make a backpack

For my first attempt at making a backpack, I made a prototype from Tyvek using an external carbon fibre arc-ed frame bought from zPacks.

Shoulder strap pouches

The straps have a slight S-shape for comfort, with small Lycra mesh pouches, sized to hold my camera or phone.

Stuffing CCF into the shoulder straps

The undersides of the straps are made from a 3D spacer mesh, the padding being 10mm thick CCF. Stuffing this into the straps was my least favourite part of the build.

The frame holders

After many hours sewing the frame components, I can really appreciate how much work zPacks have put into their packs and their designs. to get things just right. I really struggled with this part.

After much pondering. I decided to make a second prototype with an internal frame and external sleeping pad holders similar to one of my favourite designs, the Gossamer Gear Kumo.


Designing the side pockets. Large enough to hold two 1 litre bottles side by side – elasticated draw-cords at the top so the pockets can be cinched tight when partially full.


Back, front and base panels sewn together.


Next, one side panel is sewn to the back panel, with the front panel being sewn to that side panel. The second side panel is sewn to the back panel, then everything is sewn together inside out.

The Final Pack


Sizewise, the packs works out about 45L total capacity, about 35L inside the main compartment. The frame consists of two carbon fibre struts run vertically up the sides of the back panel inside the pack, easily removable when not needed.

So, that’s the prototype made.  After making some adjustments to the dimensions to suit my back length better, etc, I’m really looking forward to starting work on an xPac version of the pack, but realistically, that’s unlikely to happen for a few months yet!